Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, caught the whole world off guard. It caused people everywhere to change their focus and reorient their lives. As the global pandemic unfolds, the world locks down – forcing people out of work and into isolation.
New words hit the lexicon this year – terms like “social distancing,” “shelter in place,” and “flatten the curve.” They represent practices everyone should follow, say public health officials. It’s the best way to stay safe until a vaccine arrives.
Social distancing and self-quarantine are hard for most people. But, it hits one group especially hard. People battling addiction find it difficult to stay sober with uprooted routines. Many recovering addicts have relapsed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dayry Hulkow is a therapist at Arete Recovery center in Pembroke Pines, Florida. According to ABC News, her organization has seen a significant spike in relapse since the virus outbreak. Hulkow thinks it will only get worse.
“We have already seen relapses … a lot of mental health issues associated with addiction and all the stresses … going on in the world,” said Hulkow. “I’m definitely afraid the numbers are just getting started now.”
What Causes Addiction Relapse?
Social support plays an important role in addiction recovery. In early recovery, isolation can be harmful for those who are not connected to sober peers. Without these social connections, recovering addicts cannot appreciate each step toward sobriety.
Sober peers encourage people in recovery toward responsible living. Peers who are going in the same direction can hold each other accountable.
Social distancing restricts access to the outside world, including face-to-face contact with peers. This can lead to isolation, boredom, loneliness, anxiety and emotional distress. Without recovery support, these can become significant triggers to relapse.
For this reason, it is important to find ongoing support during this time. As they shelter in place, people need to recognize the signs of relapse – in themselves or their loved ones.
According to definingwellness.com, the lockdown in the ensuing pandemic has made it difficult for many recovery patients to meet their sponsors and other important people in their lives. Experts suggest that at this moment, the best possible course of action is to go for outpatient rehab facilities. This will help bring in a sense of normalcy to the lives of recovering patients and reduce the negativity of being in lockdown in captive situations.
Warning Signs of Addiction Relapse
Relapse is common during the recovery process, especially for alcoholics and drug addicts. According to statistics, 40 to 60 percent of people in recovery have at least one relapse. Some think the number is closer to 90 percent.
During this time of coronavirus, some people isolate at home while others hole up with loved ones. Family members who live with a recovering addict should watch for signs of relapse.
Knowing the warning signs can help family members act as a support system for their loved ones. Here are some common signs of addiction relapse:
- Poor eating habits or lack of appetite
- Poor sleeping habits or sleep patterns
- Poor personal hygiene or body odors
- Constant and compulsive lying
- Resentment or bottled up feelings
- Talking to old friends who still use
- Skipping virtual support meetings
What else should a friend or family member look for in a loved one who has relapsed? Addicts who have relapsed often relax their self-imposed rules. They may talk about their cravings for alcohol or drugs. They may romanticize their past say they can control their use.
How to Help Someone Who Has Relapsed
How can a friend or family member help someone who exhibits the above warning signs? What is the best way to help a recovering addict who has relapsed during COVID-19?
One option is to encourage the addict to return to treatment. Rehabilitation centers are open during the pandemic for people who need essential treatment.
Another way to help is to reach out with support. Supporters help people with addiction by creating a safe environment in the home. They help by creating opportunities for discussion – and sometimes, just for listening.
Supporters should stand firm and hold the addict accountable. Yet, they should also offer encouragement and optimism.
Ways to Avoid Relapse During COVID-19
Sheltering at home during the coronavirus creates many hurdles for recovering addicts. But, social distancing does not mean people are out of options. Although the health crisis presents challenges, there are alternative ways to find support.
Public health officials have encouraged service providers to use telehealth during the pandemic. Telehealth involves electronic information and telecommunication to provide long-distance service and support.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have virtual meetings online. The same goes for other 12 step programs and support groups. Virtual meetings allow these groups to continue recovery support through phones or webcams. There are also ways to stay connected on social media. Alternatively, you can also get in touch with professionals at battling addiction like the ones at Any Length Retreat.
Setting a routine can be a huge help as well. A routine has tremendous benefits for people in recovery, offering much-needed structure to their days. Staying in touch with loved ones can help them stick to a schedule.
Self-care is also important – things like exercise, healthy food and proper sleep. Hulkow has several other recommendations for recovering addicts. She encourages them to “be creative and stay present.”
Besides virtual meetings, people can use a variety of tools to cope during the pandemic. Here are some examples:
- Read recovery literature
- Practice prayer or meditation
- Engage in healthy hobbies
- Journal thoughts and feelings
- Complete craft projects
Sheltering at home is challenging for everyone, but especially for recovering addicts. It is important to find alternative ways to get support during the pandemic.
People battling addiction seem to face insurmountable hurdles, especially during COVID-19. Recovery is only made worse by financial strain and self-quarantine. Despite the hurdles, people who have relapsed (or are close to relapsing) can rebound.
Although times are stressful, hope abounds. There are virtual resources available for every stage of addiction recovery. Virtual programs offer the same guidance and support as face-to-face contact. More important, they remind people in recovery that they are not alone.